Tag Archives: Archeology

[BAPD] Rewriting the History of the Holy Land

There are many contemporary issues regarding Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict that one could talk about. However, today I would like to shed some light on an issue that is perhaps not as prominent in discussions as it should be.

As we know, the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin in general were the cradles of many early human civilizations. This region is full of historical artifacts dating to thousands of years ago. These historical artifacts are not the exclusive right of any one people, but are indeed the property of the world in general because they are a crucial part of our common humanity and global history.

For this reason, it is sad to see the destruction to ancient historical ruins and artifacts in conflict zones. We’ve all heard of how ancient Babylonian monuments were some of the victims of the war in Iraq. A similar situation is also happening in the holy land amidst the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, an even worse crime is the deliberate rewriting of ancient history to serve current political moods. There is no denying that Jews lived in this region thousands of years ago. Yet at the same time we can not deny or ignore that Arabs and other ethnicities lived in this area as well for thousands of years. Not only that, but for the last 1400 years, the area of Israel and Palestine was inhabited and ruled over by Arabs and Muslims.

For the past few years, Israel has been digging for artifacts of the biblical Jewish era of the land at the expense of artifacts from other eras, specifically Arab and Muslim times. Just to make it clear, the problem here isn’t that they are digging for Jewish artifacts, it is that they are doing that at the expense of the Arabic history of this land. Israel should not be allowed to pretend as if this land has been sitting empty and idle for the past 2000 years. Not only does that history belong to Arabs and Muslims, it also belongs to the world in its entirety. This is just like the fact that the ancient pyramids in Giza do not belong to Egyptians exclusively, they belong to the world. So, if for some reason Egypt decides to demolish the sphinx or one of the pyramids tomorrow, it will not be allowed because these monuments are not its exclusive property. So must be the case for Israel.

This concern is not a wild stroke of the imagination. The New York Times recently ran an article on a series of parks being built in Jerusalem that will overrun Arab and Muslim old sites and enforce only Jewish history, totally ignoring the History of that city and its current Arab population.

Not only that, but if you take a walk inside the Old City of Jerusalem you will see how the many Muslim sites are ignored by the municipality and left to deteriorate , while the Jewish sites are dug up and excavated at the expense of Muslim sites. When I was in old Jerusalem i was shocked to see that there even some paintings being sold of the old city without the Dome of the Rock which is the city’s most prominent land mark and has stood tall in the city for at least 1300 years!

If you watch the History Channel you will undoubtedly run into the multitude of shows excavating the tiniest rock to show the ancient Jewish history of the area. However, hardly any show ever mentions the Muslim history of the land as well, or even other epochs by other people. The audience of these shows is left with the impression that this area has been continuously controlled by Jewish people and that Arabs and Muslims never were there. I remember clearly that in one of the shows the host joined a tent of volunteers who were looking at rubble in some area and were excavating for historical artifacts. As the host was sifting through his pile, he came across some peculiar piece, so he asked the tent director if it could be of some relevance. The directory replied “No, it is Umayyad” and they tossed it away !! Why toss it away if it is Umayyad ? isn’t that at at least 1250 years old ? Isn’t that interesting ?

The danger is not in ignoring the big noticeable landmarks like the Dome of the Rock or Al-Aqsa mosque. These are easy to spot and many people recognize them. The problem is in throwing away, damaging, or destroying the smaller and lesser known sites. The ruins of a small Umayyad palace near the Noble Sanctuary have been damaged by Israeli excavations for Jewish ruins.

These infringements on ancient sites, and preferring some over the other will result in a warped view of the history of this region. In my opinion, this is totally wrong. Old history does not belong to one people, it is a property of our common humanity.

Of course, Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims have their role to play. We should pay more attention to preserving these ancient ruins in the holy land, and start our own efforts to excavating this region for its history as well. With that said, I think historical sites should be protected from politics. Archaeologists should be honest to history, and should not favor one people’s history over another based on politics. Truly, if we don’t know our past, we can’t understand our present; and if we don’t understand our present, we can’t plan for our future.

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